Friday, July 29, 2011

Miscellaneous Uzbek Trivia

I thought i would post a few random observations that have previously been absent from my posts - Just a few things i found interesting:

Gold Teeth: Many women and men (but mostly women) of abut middle age or older here have a few or all gold teeth. I have been told that it is fashionable. It is quite strange the first few times a women smiles (not at me - they seldom smile at me) and you see her gilded smile. I guess it isn't any stranger than people in North America getting their perfectly healthy teeth capped. I tried to explain to one guy in Bukhara that in certain sub-cultures in North America, gold teeth are popular (i.e. rap culture), which he seemed to think was very funny.

Car Theft: Apparently care theft used to be a big problem in Uzbekistan (mainly in Tashkent), so the government changed the law so that now, the first time one gets caught stealing a car he gets 15 years in prison. The second time one gets caught stealing a car one gets either life in prison or death by firing squad. (One Uzbek told me life in prison and another told me execution, so i don't know which is true.) Now car theft is virtually obsolete.

Questions: Every Uzbek with whom i speak asks very soon upon meeting how old i am, whether i am married and how many children i have. They cannot understand that i am single and childless and thing it is even funnier when i say that i want neither marriage or children. Everyone here seems to have many children very early in the twenties. Kids are everywhere, like rats.

Cigars: If you are coming to Uzbekistan and are a cigar smoker, bring enough for your trip, because they seem to be nonexistent in the country. My cigars have attracted a lot of attention (in Bukhara they even became the subject of rumor); had i brought more i could have given them away to the curious smoker.

Vegetarians: Like most countries, Uzbekistan is not a great place for vegetarians. Breakfasts are usually ok and then it is pretty much bread and cheese and fruit for the rest of the day. There are lots of yummy looking bready/samosa-y looking things for sale on the street, but they all contain meat. On the plus side, the bread and fruit are really very good. And the tea is excellent.

Tattoos: I have been told that if you want to see people in Uzbekistan with tattoos, you must visit the jails. Muslims, of course, are not supposed to get tattoos and that rule (unlike the drinking rule) seems to be well-respected. I have worn long sleeves on this trip, but sometimes a tattoo peeks out from my sleeve and it always gets questions. Many people have asked me what they are and asked to take pictures of them. One guy said, "You are like pop star" because i had so many tattoos. I have nopt gotten any negative reactions, just curiosity.

Poverty: There are definitely many poor people here, but i have seen no one sleeping on the street and very few people begging for money.

Animals: Aside from birds and working animals like donkeys, horses, goats and cows, i have seen very few. I saw four cats in Bukhara and i have seen a total of three dogs.  I don't know where they all are.

Safety: Other than my little run in with the police, i have felt perfectly safe the whole time i have been here, even at night and walking alone. I feel the need to mention this because i know many people have other ideas about the country.

Reading: If you are visiting Uzbekistan, bring your own reading material and do not count on finding more. I brought one book (the hilarious and appropriate "Absurdistan", which i recommend) and then was fortunate enough to trade it for another english book with the girl i met on the train to Bukhara. I read that and then read the one english book a my Bukhara hotel. Now i am without reading material and cannot find more. Because most travelers here are not native english speakers, it is difficult to find books to pick up along the way. I am even down to my final NY Times crossword. It may be a long flight home.

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